I've been to the US a few times now, but until I went there for a conference last month, I have to admit that all I knew of Baltimore was from The Wire. Which wasn't exactly encouraging me to visit. (Equally troubling was the note in the conference program, on running routes around town, with its simple injunction: "Don't run north.")
However, there's actually a surprising amount to do, and I didn't struggle at all to fill my spare weekends. Two museums that appealed to my wanderlust and love of history were the Historic Ships in the Inner Harbor, and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum.
I went round the lighthouse and two of the four ships, of which my favourite was the submarine, USS Torsk. I've been in a submarine before, and each time, it makes me just a little bit envious of the minimalism that such confined living quarters must require of the inhabitants. Each bunk lifts up to reveal just enough storage space for neatly-rolled shirts and a few personal effects. Trying to cater for the whole crew, in a kitchen the size of a postage stamp, would also be a significant challenge.
Going rather further backwards in time, the USS Constellation is a three-masted wooden frigate that dates to the 18th century. As well as the complex rigging, highlights included an impressive gun deck full of cannon, and sleeping accommodation that really highlighted the difference in status between officers and crew.
A little further out of town (it felt a lot further in the sweltering heat and high humidity of summer), the B&O Railroad Museum is a collection of trains dating from the beginning of the American railroads through to the end of the Age of Steam. The exhibits celebrate the route which used to run from Baltimore all the way to Columbus, Ohio. As well as a number of imposing engines with wheels taller than I am, highlights for me included the very old carriages styled after a horse-drawn carriage, the specialised trains used as post sorting offices and mobile laboratories, and the 'Gratitude Train' sent as a gift from France to the state of Maryland after the Second World War.